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Commonwealth Games event labelled 'hallmark of barbarism'

THEY have been decried as a scar on Glasgow's cityscape, a symbol of deprivation and, at times, desperation.

The Red Road flats were  scheduled to come down later in the year after becoming synonymous  with crime, drug abuse  and vandalism
The Red Road flats were scheduled to come down later in the year after becoming synonymous with crime, drug abuse and vandalism

But the decision to simultaneously blow up five of the remaining six Red Road tower blocks in a 15-second ­spectacle beamed onto screens at Celtic Park on July 23 has bitterly divided public opinion in Scotland and beyond. And now some big names from the world of art and architecture are wading in and pulling no punches.

More than 4000 people have signed a petition against the move, with critics dubbing it crass, insensitive and a "spectacle on the cheap". Alexander Stoddart, sculptor to the Queen in Scotland, said demolition as entertainment was the "hallmark of barbarism".

Architecture critic Jonathan Meades, who fronted a BBC documentary on brutalist style earlier this year, criticised the idea as "half-witted" populism.

He said: "Instead of ­committing yet another act of municipal vandalism, Glasgow's appalling council, which has a lot of form in this area, might have asked itself why it didn't maintain the structures it built.

"High-rise works well in the private sector for the rich and even the modestly well-off - their buildings are defended, serviced, cleaned. The public sector has shown over again that it fosters neglect and all the problems that come with it."

Demolition of the GHA-owned towers was already planned for later this year, but the idea to amalgamate it into the opening ceremony appears to have been the brainchild of the 2014 creative team, spearheaded by US events company Jack Morton Worldwide.

The firm previously staged opening ceremonies for the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Its artistic director David Zolkwer - Glasgow 2014's answer to Danny Boyle - said the demolition would be "an important opportunity for us to contemplate the many lives lived in the tower blocks over the last 50 years."

Residents evacuated from the demolition zone, including asylum seekers housed in the only tower that will remain standing, are to be offered free passes to view the blowdown from Glasgow Green - a move that has in itself been ­criticised as insensitive.

The towers were the tallest homes in Europe when construction was completed in 1969. At the time they were cutting-edge, drawing some 5000 tenants from inner-city Glasgow who marvelled at the panoramic views from 300ft up.

However, as the decades passed the Red Road flats became synonymous with crime, drug abuse and vandalism. In 2010, the tragedy of psychologically disturbed asylum seeker Serge Serykh made national news after the Russian leapt from the balcony of his 15th-floor flat, taking his wife Tatiana and 21-year-old stepson with him.

Their application to remain in the UK had been rejected days before.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: "Such is the community that's there and has been there that we felt it was incredibly important to ensure that we paid tribute to them by including them as a part of the opening ceremony.

"Glasgow could have had an opening ceremony where everything was shiny and new, but we wanted it to be authentic to Glasgow and all sides of Glasgow. Given that these towers were coming down anyway, it seemed fitting to bring them down spectacularly."

City council leader Gordon Matheson, who has written to each affected household, said this week: "Their (the blocks') demolition will all but mark the end of high-rise living in the area and is symbolic of the changing face of Glasgow."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Glasgow 2014 are responsible for the content of the opening and closing ceremonies. Through the Glasgow 2014 strategic group meetings, ministers have been informed of plans and proposals for ceremonies."

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